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Friday, October 5, 2012

KitchenAid: a lesson in issues management

Well, up until a few days ago, I didn't even know KitchenAid had a Twitter account. Though I suppose it makes sense - they're a well-known brand with an established target audience that is currently one of the biggest users of social media.

According to research from the Nielsen Company, women between 35 and 54 are most likely to do social networking on their mobile devices.

What else are women between 35 and 54 more likely to do? Use KitchenAid products.

It's safe to say the KitchenAid brand works hard to project a sort of down-home, motherly image. When you think KitchenAid, visions of freshly baked cookies and Sunday mornings in the kitchen with ma come to mind.

Ahh, the good old days! Picture from joecorbi.com.


Offensive slurs about the president and his dead grandmother? Not so much.

But that's exactly what went down during Wednesday night's presidential debate. Obama had mentioned his grandmother, who died three days before he was elected president. Moments later, @KitchenAidUSA tweeted the following message to its 25,000+ following:

"Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! 'She died 3 days b4 he became president'."

Yikes.

Given the language of the tweet and its inconsistency with the tone of the KitchenAid brand, it's pretty clear it was sent out by a member of the company's social media squad who forgot to switch over to their personal account before sending the message.

It's a common error, but it shouldn't have happened. KitchenAid responded quickly and efficiently to the faux-pas.

The tweet was quickly removed, but as we all know from first-year PR, once something's been put out there, it's out there for good. Luckily, KitchenAid CEO Cynthia Soledad (or her PR people) had the smarts to take matters into her own hands. She posted the following message on the company Facebook page:

"Hello, everyone. My name is Cynthia Soledad, and I am the head of the KitchenAid brand. I would like to personally apologize to President Barack Obama, his family and everyone on Twitter for the offensive tweet sent earlier. It was carelessly sent in error by a member of our Twitter team who, needless to say, won't be tweeting for us anymore. That said, I take full responsibility for my team. Thank you for hearing me out."

Picture from radaronline.com


She also responded directly to media and other followers on Twitter, and made herself available for interviews and to address any questions and complaints anyone had.

I'd say Soledad was extremely successful in handling an unfortunate situation. She was honest, transparent, and readily available for questioning. She didn't pass it off with a shrug and a "Everyone makes mistakes!". She took full responsibility for what happened.

But could she have prevented it from happening in the first place?

Whoever it was that sent out the offensive tweet probably has their own excuses for why they did it. They were drunk, angry, whatever. But could KitchenAid have prevented this whole debacle by not hiring this person to begin with? Did they do any background checks on the person before they were hired - including scouring their personal social media sites for inappropriate language and behaviour?

It may seem like invasion of privacy, but these days when you're applying for jobs in the communications field, you gotta make sure you're presenting yourself professionally at all times. Even online.

Except, maybe, if you're applying at KitchenAid.

 "Bad Communication" by Sufjan Stevens.

What do you think? Did KitchenAid handle this well? Will this affect their sales and bottom line? Will everyone forget about it a few days? Let me know!

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